At one point I contacted producer Christine Tschida about the situation and she basically said that none of the material was striking Keillor's fancy. And to be honest, not everything I sent was a gem. There were a couple of bits I resurrected from other work to submit and they were weak. I couldn't get as biting as SNL would get on topical events (or as stupid) so my skits meandered around. But I kept at it. And at it. Although the time gap is about a year and a half, I was technically in the 2000-2001 season. To my way of thinking, that means I got something in the show for my first two season in a row.
This was a quirky sketch. PHC was on the road once again, this time in Laramie, Wyoming. We had gotten word that the show wanted site-specific material, so I did some research into Laramie and decided on two bits. One was ambitious; Garrison Keillor liked to do a kind of overview of the place they were broadcasting from when they traveled, so I decided to write up one of these whimsical histories about Laramie. I mean, it's one thing to write a sketch that GK is in, it's another to actually write for GK himself.
And the second bit was a more generic take on the Hollywood westerns which were inspired by towns like Laramie. Two, I thought, very solid pieces. So here's what happened...
GK combined material from each into a bit called "When Things were Different," hosted by the Old Story Teller. I have no idea if this was a running bit beforehand, but he took lines here and set-ups there along with dialogue and gags and came up with this.
On air credits were the usual group of joke names and "Russ Ringsac and...and Laura Levine." So, no mention of me at all. At this point I emailed Tschida the producer and asked her about that. Her response? Keillor misread the copy. She apologized. He just skipped my name. Now, listening to it for the first time in ages, I can hear it, he loses his place while reading. That's live radio. At least the online credits listed me:
© Garrison Keillor 2001, with material from Dan Fiorella
To be honest, I didn't get too worked up about them merging these skits into one skit, because a lot of the Hollywood skit was pieced together from other things I had written. For instance, here's a bit of Galaxy Ranger trivia; the the Hollywood West skit ends with a song. I talk about westerns being make in space so I grabbed the lyrics from my Galaxy Ranger song, "Oh Tortuna." I redid the refrain to be "Cowboys in Space," but the rest of the song is the same.
That section about the Pony Express? I lifted the prose from my novel (then in-progress), "Novel Concept."
And "The Man Who Sued Liberty Valance" was one of my "Cold Draft" sketches that I had written years before as a follow up to my "It's a Wonderful Life" parody.
Which brings us to The Old Story Teller from theMay 19, 2001 broadcast of PHC from the University of Wyoming in Laramie...
GK: As is so often the case in the cities of the West, the first white man to set foot in the future city Laramie was a fur trapper for the American Fur Company, Jacques Laramee. Coincidence? Hard to say. Back then, wearing fur wasn't a fashion statement but simply proof of your place in the food chain. In those days it was wear or be worn. Anyway, they named the place after him.
Not far from here is the National Historic site of Ft. Laramie. It played an important role on the high planes as America expanded westward and towns and post were established. In 1834 Fort Williams was founded. It was a cottonwood stockade built by William Sublette and his fur trade associates. It thrived, mostly because it was conveniently located near the North Platte and Laramie River. It was your one-stop shopping place for all your pelt and fur needs.
It became so successful that a competition built a rival fort, Fort Platte, only a mile away. Not one to pass up a challenge, Fort William was upgraded to an adobe fort called Fort John. So we see how everyone was on a first name basis with these forts. That was in 1841. Now, even though it was named after John Sarpy, a big shot in the American Fur Company, it was more commonly referred to as Fort Laramie.
Again, it was a trading post, but as emigrants began their westward trek, it became their rest stop on the Oregon Trail. By 1849, the press for the West resulted in the sale of the fort to be the U.S. Army.
(horses whinney, clopping, clagging)
CB: Whoa, Nelly, whoa.
GK: Howdy, partners. Where you all headed?
GK: Well, yes, I guessed as much. What part of the west?
WF: To the land of sauces and spices.
GK: I'm looking at the map here and I don't see that.
CB: We're headed to the Oregano Terriotory. This here is the Oregano Trail, ain't it?
WF: They say the streets there are paved with pizza.
CB: I love that Eye-talian grub.
GK: This here is the Oregon Trail. To the Oregon territory. Thousands are using it to travel there.
WF: What do you put Oregon on? Is that a Thai spice?
GK: It's not a spice, it's the Northwest region of the country.
CB: No pizza?
WF: No meat sauce?
GK: 'Fraid not.
CB: Dang it. All this way for nothing.
WF: What are we supposed to do with all this basil?
GK: I'm sorry.
WF: Honey, maybe we could take the trail to the North Pole.
GK: The North Pole trail?
CB: Oh, yeah, the Santa Claus trail! Yeah, we could do that. Get work there! I always wanted to be one of Santa helpers!
WF: Let's go.
CB: Giddy up, Nelly.
(horses pull out)
GK: Good luck to ya. Happy trails.
In 1861, Ft. Larmamie was a way post for the Pony Express, the express mail delivery service you used when it absolutely, positively had to be there this month.
It was an amazing time in American history. The wild west. A man and his horse together for one purpose; to swiftly cross the plains of America with the mail. It was only in existence a little more than a year, yet it is a time which fires the imagination of the American public.
The country was young and experiencing growing pains. The pioneers, seeking new lands, new horizons, new adventures, had pushed to California, helping fulfill the nation's Manifest Destiny.
Politics, being politics, were reaching controversial times. Slave states vs. free states. East vs. West.
All needing to keep in touch as the gathering disagreements leading to civil war loomed ahead.
It took 22 days to send a letter from New York to San Francisco via Panama. Something faster was called for. That something would be dubbed the Pony Express.
ZK: Dang, dang. Get me a fresh horse!
GK: Zeke? Weren't you just here last week headed west?
GK: Why you headed back already?
ZK: Dang letter is postage due!
GK: Yes, the Pony Express. It only lasted 18 months. It lost money. At it's peak it only carried 41 letters per trip. And yet, yet, it has come to represent the wild and woolly west for all time and all Americans. A time when a man and his horse could carry the country's future in its saddle bag.
The Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company, the company which operated the Pony Express for 15 of its 18 month existence, lost 200,000 dollars, and the U.S. government was not forthcoming with financial aid, so in August of 1861, they cease to be in the Pony express business. Other firms continued the route for another few months, but finally and for certain, the Pony Express expired, done in by technology. Done in by the completion of the Pacific Telegraph Company's wire, linking the coasts, truly allowing this country to span from sea to shining sea.
TO: It's hooked up! I'm getting a message!
GK: What's it say?
TO: Click, click, clickety-click, click, click, click---
GK: That's an old joke.
TO: No, it's not. This is 1861, I just made it up!
GK: Once the Union Pacific railroad was completed south of the fort, here in Larmaie, the Army recognized that Ft. Laramie had served its purpose and in 1890 the fort was decommissioned and passed into legend.
TA: Ticket Agent)
GK: Wyoming. Laramie, Cheyenne. Just these names put me in mind of the old West. Sure, there's more west west of here, but you have to remember that at one time everything west of the east was the west. The lore of the old West fascinated the country, even when the west wasn't all that west.
Dime store novels and penny dreadfuls told the tales of the pioneers on the plains and the bad hombres and outlaws. Books like "Little House on the Prairie" were very successful and became classics. And Hollywood. Hollywood's love affair with the western goes back to the beginnings of film itself. The silent classic "The Great Train Robbery" was one of the first films ever to tell a story. Can we show the clip we have?
(a few moments of fluttering sounds)
GK: It really holds up, even after all these years, doesn't it? Tom Mix, Gene Audry, Randolph Scott, Roy Rodgers all kept the legends alive. Hollywood made hundreds of classic westerns, but it also made some lesser quality ones. Films like "High Noonish"
DY: Sheriff, Black Bart said he'd be back for you, and now he's a-comin'.
DP Nine o'clock.
SH: Ooh. Nine's not good for me. I've got a dentist appointment. I made it weeks ago.
DP: Oh. How about ten o'clock?
SH: Well, if the dentist gets to me right away, maybe. Oh, oh, no, no, no. I have to be at the church social. I promised the reverend I'd throw out the first horse shoe at the horse shoe pitch.
DP: Oh, man. I know Black Bart's got something at eleven---
SH: Now, eleven's good for me. Maybe noon.
DP: Say noon-ish. He'll look for you.
GK: Then there was the near-classic "The Man Who Sued Liberty Valance."
SM: Liberty Valance shot someone else! Isn't there anyone who's man enough to stop him?
LV: I reckon not, missy. Many a man has faced my gun and many a man has died!
LW: Are you Mr. Liberty Valance?
LV: Yes, I am.
LW: Here you are. Consider yourself served.
LV: What's that?
LW: That's a subpoena, Mr. Valance. The widow Hawkins is suing you for shooting her husband. I suggest you get a good lawyer.
LV: Lawyers? Dang! There goes the west.
GK: Then there was the epic "How the West was Lost and Found."
SS: Jed, here it is, behind the refrigerator!
GK: And the somewhat memorable "Stage Coach Fare."
JW: Howdy, ma'am.
TA: Hello. My name is Pam. How can we help you today?
JW: Well, I'm aiming to get on the 12:15 stage to Laramie.
TA: Will you be traveling stage coach 1st class or stage coach coach?
JW: I have stage coach coach, but I was hoping to use my frequent rider miles to upgrade to coach 1st class.
TA: You don't have enough to go coach 1st class but you can upgrade to business coach coach.
JW: What's the difference between coach 1st class and business coach coach?
TA: Well, at the rest stop business coach coach gets a cool drink and 1st class coach gets to bathe.
GK: Hollywood and the west. They just don't make them like that anymore. Probably with good reason. Hollywood and the West continue onward and upward. We're into the 21st century now and it's time to bring the old west into the new millennium. That's why we're very excited about the upcoming big-budget summer blockbuster tent pole movie, "Cowboys in Space." I get to sing the title song off the sound track album...and it goes something like this:
(to the tune of "Oh, Susanna.")
Entered a space contest and
much to my surprise
won a trip to see the stars,
The constellation prize.
The sun shone bright the day we left
and everything got hot
but that's the way it's always been;
A sun can't change its spots.
Cowboys in space
We're off on a big trip
Real life riders in the sky
On board our rocket ship
The Red gi-ants did light our way
and white dwarfs made our trail
Tightened up our as'troid belt
Caught a comet by the tail.
The cosmic dust, it made us sneeze,
The Big Bang made us cringe
Got wet in mete-or showers
And dried in solar winds,
The Milky Way was curdled
and the Big Dipper got bent
Flew into a black hole and
returned before we went.
Gonna travel to the sun
for a historic flight
We'll be okay, we won't burn up,
We're going there at night.
Ran rings 'round Saturn but
Jumpin' Jupiter took thrust
The planet Mars made us see red
and Uranus made us blush.
We're gonna take a lunar trip
in our big fancy jet
Come along and join us
and be a space cadet.